Concerns Raised over Federal Police Help in Arrest of Canadian in Lebanon

Canada's opposition decried Wednesday its federal police having a hand in the arrest in Lebanon of a Canadian potato farmer for allegedly selling "dangerous" spuds to Algeria.

Henk Tepper, 44, one of Canada's largest potato farmers, was arrested on an international warrant in March while on a trade mission organized by Canada's agriculture department.

Algeria is seeking his transfer to prosecute him for allegedly selling 3,800 metric tons of potatoes to Algeria in October 2007 which it claims were "dangerous to humans if consumed."

Algeria further claims he forged Canadian documents certifying the quality of the potatoes to sneak them past its customs.

Tepper, through his Canadian lawyer Rodney Gillis, has denied the accusations.

"Today we learned the Royal Canadian Mounted Police sent his private information to Algeria before he was arrested. This sounds like the Maher Arar scandal all over again," said opposition MP Jinny Jogindera Sims, referring to a Canadian computer engineer detained in New York in September 2002 following a tip-off from Canadian police who suspected him of terrorism.

Arar was then expelled to Syria by the United States, where he was detained and tortured.

Documents obtained by public broadcaster CBC show the RCMP compiled financial details about Tepper's farming business, as well as personal information about his wife, their house and their assets.

The information was provided to Interpol, run by Algeria's civil police force in that country.

Tepper's lawyer believes the exchange of information helped lead to the Algerian warrant and Tepper's arrest in Lebanon.

In parliament, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews confirmed the RCMP had "assisted Interpol with a criminal investigation" but added its cooperation "was done in accordance with Canadian law."

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Diane Ablonczy, meanwhile, said Ottawa was "very concerned" about Tepper and was working on his behalf "through quiet, diplomatic channels."

Source: Agence France Presse

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